© Timothy Hsiao 2015


Arguments in favor of an individual moral right to keep and bear firearms typically appeal to the value of guns as a reasonable means of self-defense. This is, for the most part, an empirical claim. If it were shown that allowing private gun ownership would lead to an overall net increase in crime or other social harms, then the strength of a putative right to own a gun would be diminished. But would it be defeated completely? I do not think so, and indeed I want to suggest in this paper that even if the harms outweigh the benefits, that neither an outright ban on handguns nor restrictive discretionary ownership policies are justified as an initial reaction. In other words, given that the overall harms outweigh the overall benefits, the default position is still one in favor of reasonably permissive gun laws over a total ban or restrictive discretionary policies.